LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The writer, who produced Bing Crosby and David Bowie in “Little Drummer Boy,” talked with CBS2 about how the holiday classic duet almost never happened.
It was 1977 when rock star David Bowie met “Mr. White Christmas” Bing Crosby for a cross duet between two eras.
“It was an odd couple, as they say. However, we all had high hopes that it would work out nicely,” Buz Kohan recalls.
And had it not been for Kohan, the two might never have been recorded.
“David, as you know, was at the time, Ziggy Stardust, which was a whole different audience that he was playing to at the time,” he said.
But he agreed to guest star on “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas” special.
Kohan, who wrote most of the dialogue, chose the song – “The Little Drummer Boy.”
“And I said, ‘We’d like you to do, Little Drummer Boy. We have a beautiful arrangement for you.’ He says, ‘I really don’t like that song,’” Kohan said.
“It almost didn’t happen… he was sort of adamant that he didn’t want to do that,”
And with less than a few hours before rehearsals, Kohan and two others, who worked with him, wrote what some would call… magical.
“We said, ‘we want to try and preserve as much of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ as we can for the arrangement,’” he recalls.
“We played it for David and Bing and the producers and David said, ‘Yeah, I like that. That would be nice, I can do that.’” Kohan added.
The two stars rehearsed the music in the same amount of time it took Kohan to write up a new piece – just under an hour.
And when all was said and done…
“You know, Bing, was very happy about it and usually when you do special material for any kind of show, it’s a one-shot thing. You play it once and then it’s gone and nobody ever hears it again no matter how good it was,” he said.
Tragically though, Crosby died of a heart attack one month before the special made air.
Kohan says his vocals live on through one of the most popular Christmas songs that might not have been.
“I believe that first run, it sold $2 million copies and people kept writing in and saying ‘gee, this is very, very nice… you know regardless of the oddness of the coupling,’” Kohan said.